Surgery and anesthesia increase risk for ischemic stroke

April 10, 2000

A new Mayo Clinic study shows that people who have surgery and anesthesia are at increased risk for ischemic stroke (stroke caused by an obstruction to the blood supply). This study is the first to evaluate the risk factor of surgery/anesthesia while accounting for known risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and others.

Medical records of 1,455 Rochester residents who had ischemic stroke were compared to an equal number of patients without stroke. The study found that surgery/anesthesia is an independent risk factor for the development of ischemic stroke within the 30 days following surgery. The relative risk was elevated both for higher risk procedures (such as heart, vascular or brain surgery) as well as for general, lower risk surgeries.

The study author, Gilbert Wong, M.D., a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist, says this new information, published in the February issue of Anesthesiology, may be important for physicians and patients to consider when weighing all the potential risks and benefits of elective surgery. However, he says the overall rates of stroke following surgery are very low (about five percent for higher risk procedures and less than one percent for other procedures), and these findings should not deter people from medically necessary surgery.
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Mayo Clinic

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